Archive: Hubble’s main camera dies Feb 3 2007

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BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Hubble’s main camera shuts down

Hubble’s main camera shuts down Hubble’s pictures of the cosmos have been astounding Enlarge Image The main camera on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has shut down after an electrical failure, Nasa has said. Astronomers are calling the malfunction of the Advanced Camera for Surveys a “great loss” as it has taken the clearest pictures yet of the Universe. US space agency engineers said only one-third of the camera’s functions were likely to be restored. Hubble is due to receive a new camera during a planned servicing mission by space shuttle in 2008. This should recover all of the capability lost in the latest failure. “The successful completion of [the shuttle mission] and insertion of Wide Field Camera-3 (WFC3) will take us fully back to not only where we are now, but where we want [the telescope] to be in the future,” said David Leckrone, Nasa’s senior project scientist on Hubble. Click here to see a summary of the Hubble servicing plan ‘Great loss’ The Advanced Camera for Surveys has been the most in-demand instrument on the observatory since its installation in 2002. HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE Hubble Space Telescope Named after the great US astronomer Edwin Hubble Launched in 1990 into a 600km-high circular orbit Equipped with a 2.4m primary mirror and five instruments Length: 15.9m; diameter: 4.2m; Mass: 11,110kg Observations have probed about 24,000 celestial objects Made more than 93,000 trips around our planet Generates about 10 gigabytes of data each day The ACS actually consists of three sub-cameras that detect and filter light from the ultraviolet to the near infrared. Astronomers can continue to use Hubble’s other instruments – which include the Field Planetary Camera-2 and the Near Infrared Camera Multi-Object Spectrograph – but the loss of its primary camera is being mourned by the scientific community. “Science will continue, but it’s a great loss, no doubt,” said Mario Livio at the Space Telescope Science Institute which manages Hubble. “It’s a great loss because this was a fantastic camera that just produced incredible science.” This is the third time electrical problems have taken the ACS out of action since June last year. Jupiter target The latest upset pushed the space telescope into a protective “safe mode” on Saturday. Officials managed to bring the observatory back online by Sunday, minus its ACS capabilities. Two of the instrument’s three channels – its wide field and high-resolution channels – were unlikely to be restored, engineers said. These channels have been used to obtain ultra-deep views of the cosmos and detailed data on individual stars. Nasa engineers hope the third channel – known as the Solar Blind channel and frequently used to study objects in our Solar System – can be recovered in time to make support observations of Jupiter as it is passed by the New Horizon’s spacecraft next month. Life extension Nasa has set up an Anomaly Review Board to investigate the latest incident. “It is too early to know what influences the ACS anomaly may have on Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission-4 planning,” said Preston Burch, the programme manager for Hubble. JSWT (Nasa) The James Webb telescope will launch in the next decade Telescope aims at first stars New Horizons targets Jupiter “It is important that the review board conduct a thorough investigation that will allow us to determine if there are any changes needed in the new instruments that will be installed on the upcoming servicing mission so that we can be sure of maximising the telescope’s scientific output.” The servicing mission to be conducted by astronauts on the Discovery shuttle should launch in September of 2008. In addition to the Wide Field Camera-3, the crew will fit the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). Together, the new instruments will improve significantly Hubble’s ability to probe distant, faint objects in the early Universe. New batteries and gyroscopes will maintain the telescope’s power and pointing systems. The servicing mission should extend Hubble’s orbital lifetime to at least 2013, by which time Nasa will be getting close to launching a successor: the James Webb Space Telescope. Hubble is the result of a joint venture between the US and European space agencies. SERVICING THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE Hubble diagram Shuttle Discovery will grab Hubble with a robotic arm and pull it on to a work platform to allow astronauts easy access to its interior Hubble has six gyroscopes that are critical to its control and pointing systems. These have started to fail and all will have to be replaced Six new batteries will rejuvenate the electrical system; astronauts will attach new thermal blankets to insulate sensitive components The telescope has two instrument bays; the COS and WFC3 will be slid into racks made vacant by the removal of older instruments An attempt will also be made to repair the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) which stopped working in 2004 Click here to return E-mail this to a friend Printable version SEE ALSO New Horizons targets Jupiter kick 19 Jan 07 | Science/Nature First stars in telescope’s sights 12 Jan 07 | Science/Nature Hubble makes 3D dark matter map 07 Jan 07 | Science/Nature Hubble telescope will get upgrade 31 Oct 06 | Science/Nature Hubble mission is ‘wonderful news’ 31 Oct 06 | Science/Nature RELATED INTERNET LINKS Hubble The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites TOP SCIENCE/NATURE STORIES Humans blamed for climate change Concrete ‘to stem Java mud flow’ Hope for safe prenatal gene test News feeds| News feeds MOST POPULAR STORIES NOW * MOST E-MAILED * MOST READ * Will India make the breakthrough? * Chance meeting solves baby mix-up * Princess trapped by palace guard * ‘Anti-Aids gel’ trial is stopped * Seacat collides with cargo ship Most popular now, in detail * MOST E-MAILED * MOST READ * Bird flu virus is Asian strain * Chance meeting solves baby mix-up * Seacat collides with cargo ship * Kylie and partner announce split * Miami gears up for Super Bowl XLI Most popular now, in detail

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